Monday, October 18, 2021

Classes halted at BIUST as students clash with management

Classes were halted an emergency meeting convened at the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) on Monday as students threatened to strike over a controversial decision by the university management to change the academic calendar.

After a protracted battle that broke out on Friday and was by Monday threatening to escalate into a fully fledged strike, BIUST management capitulated on Monday and reversed its earlier decision to change the academic calendar. 

Students were against any changes to the academic calendar as it would force them to go back home for eight months without learning. Tempers flared on Thursday when BIUST management released a memo informing students that the university will close in December and reopen in August next year. 

The management reportedly chose August as it is the month in which many institutions of higher learning in Botswana start their academic year. The students on the other hand were not happy that they would be forced to wait for long before resuming their studies. Further, if the new calendar was adopted classes would be delayed by almost one year. By Friday evening, students were freely roaming the campus and singing liberation songs, while refusing to attend classes.

The university came to a standstill on Monday after students petitioned the school management calling for the reversal of changes to the academic calendar. The students’ petition was received by Acting Chancellor Professor John Cooke on Monday. BIUST has 1 900 students including 206 postgraduate and 56 international students. The BIUST academic calendar is not in line with other Universities in Botswana due to previous controversies at the University.

The BIUST Senate has been under pressure from the Ministry of Education to align the academic calendar with that of other Universities in the country. BIUST is already behind schedule in terms of semesters and students told this publication that they have already lost confidence in the University. 

“When we came to BIUST we had plans and time frames within which we would complete our studies, such that extending the academic calendar will seriously inconvenience us,” they said.

The BIUST management’s proposal to extend the academic calendar would mean that the first batch of students who are expected to graduate this year will only graduate at a later time, probably a year later.

The Telegraph can confirm that on Monday all classes were cancelled and an emergency meeting called by the University Senate to address the standoff between the management and students. The meeting was attended by the management, the Students Representative Council (SRC) and the University Senate.

It was during this meeting that the Senate ruled in favour of students that the academic calendar will remain as is.

Contacted for comment shortly after the meeting, Acting SRC President Boitumelo Bohule said the Senate agreed to keep the academic calendar as it is for now and classes are expected to resume on Tuesday.

BIUST spokesperson Keoagile Rafifing confirmed the Senate’s ruling. He said the proposed change of the academic calendar was not accepted by the students.

“We amicably agreed to stick to the old academic calendar. The issue is settled and classes are expected to resume on Tuesday,” he said.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper